Review of 2015, Preview of 2016

A brief review of our location independent lifestyle in 2015

First, I have had more peace this year than I ever remember in my life. Taking on a caretaking job so that we pay no rent has been a huge stress reliever. We’ve been here since the end of March. We initially came to care for horses, but now the horses have been moved to their new residence, so our caretaking job is relegated to keeping the property secure until it is sold. Quiet. Peaceful. Inspiring.

It’s beautiful here. I’ve lived in a lot of places in my 16 years in Arizona. Our current location is in one of the mildest climates. It’s at an elevation where we actually get a change of seasons, so it’s been fun to watch their progression. It’s in a grassy valley between the Dragoon and the Chiricahua mountains.

Right now, I’m sitting in the living room of our little apartment, in a new recliner given to us by friends. It was given to them, but they had no place for it in their house, so we are the lucky recipients. I’m in front of a cozy fire with my kitty on the arm of the chair.

Today, my writing goal is 2500 words. This is my last write-for-hire novella, and this contract is garnering me the highest amount I’ve ever been paid for fiction writing – $.02 per word, or $20 per 1000. I would normally write 5000 words a day ($100 a day), but I have plans this afternoon.

I’ll have to update the post on Elance and oDesk. Elance is no more, for practical purposes–it has combined with oDesk and the two have become Upwork.

I have written steadily for the two sites for two years now. This has enabled me to collect and create an outstanding portfolio, which has resulted in better offers and higher pay. I now get paid $22.50 an hour for copy writing, and, as I mentioned, $20 per 1000 words for fiction. Contrast that to two years ago, when I started out at $12.00 an hour and $10 per 1000 words.

I was paid $450 for my first 30,000 word novella 18 months ago. I will receive $800 for this 40,000 word novella that I am working on now.

What’s up for 2016?

Why then do I say that this is my last write-for-hire contract? 2016 is bringing changes in our life. By the time we leave this caretaking job, social security will have kicked in for us. Because of the way we have downsized our lives, that will easily pay our bills, and we can write for ourselves. We have discussed many writing projects, and I am greatly inspired.

I will finish up this novella in January. In February, I’m starting a couple of free classes through WordPress’s Blogging University which will help me to get on track better with my blogging.

I will take up the Bradbury Challenge which I told myself last year that I would. The essence of the Bradbury Challenge is to write one short story per week. Ray Bradbury said nobody can write 52 bad stories.

I am planning a couple of anthologies my own short stories. Right now, I’m not setting a deadline. One of the things I have learned in writing for hire is that when someone limits you to a crazy deadline (I want a 30,000 word novella in 4 weeks!), it means only bad writing. And yet I was rehired many times because my writing is supposedly some of the better stuff out there when it comes to genre fiction. Go figure.

So my anthologies will be published when they’re finished–not according to any crazy deadline I set for myself. Of course, I will start “building my brand” so to speak, so that when I do launch an anthology, I will already have an audience for it.

My advice to you, then, for 2016 is to consider if you’re just starting out, but I’ll also include this link which is the best set of suggested websites for which you can write (and get paid) that I have seen. There were several which piqued my interest, and which I am checking out.

If you’re a fiction writer, consider the Bradbury Challenge.

Most of all, be creative in your living. Don’t look at what will make you comfortable, but what will bring you peace. If you find relief from the stress of the world and deep, flowing peace, I guarantee you will also be comfortable–just not in the way you might think.

On to a glorious 2016!


Ghostwriting: Good or Bad?

Today, Angela Hoy of WritersWeekly and posted this article: I Want to Hire You to Write My Book (But Only for a Paltry Share of Future Royalties).

After spending the last 9 months ghostwriting fiction, here’s what I’ll tell you. Yes, it is paltry (very), but, although I’ve been a writer and storyteller for years, I’m new at writing fiction. I am now writing my 20th novella. Number 19 is the first one I would ever have been able to say, “Yes. I want to put my name on this one.”

So what does that mean? First, if I were doing this on my own, that means I would have likely thrown away 18 manuscripts before I got to this point. Well, 17–there is one that I would have liked to have kept to rework. However, someone paid me to write them. And they must not have been too bad because several clients rehired me to do more projects.

As it is, I’ve been able to keep a roof over my head for the last 9 months with my ghostwriting. The one thing, however, that became paramount is that I find a way to arrange my circumstances so that I can start working on the things I do want to write and publish for myself. Thus my partner and I found a caretaking job. We are exchanging horse care and ranch security for rent and utilities. Not having to pay those things is a huge relief, and allows us to put that money back for future.

At this point we’ve agreed that we will each do one ghostwriting assignment per month in order to have money to pay our bills and put some away. Then, instead of taking on more ghostwriting, we will write and publish for ourselves, starting with some of the more frivolous genres (which seem to be terribly popular). They can be fun to write, and if you have paid attention to any marketing strategies whatsoever, should sell fairly well. Then when we start getting residuals from them, we can start the kind of writing we really want to do. We know how it works–we have to be putting new stuff on the market every month to keep the money flowing.

More on this subject another day. My next post will be what I’ve learned watching my clients market my books.

Taking up the Bradbury Challenge

From my personal blog:

Image courtesy of thaikrit at

How I Started Persuasive Copywriting

Here’s another writer with a story, not unlike my own, with even more great advice for those of you who want to make a living with your writing talent.

Persuasive & Engaging Copy Tailored to Your Audience

I’m going to be honest with you. I never thought that I would be successful as a writer. I bought into the whole “starting artist” thing. I’ve always loved writing. I went to college and got my degree in writing, screenwriting that is. But looking back, I realized that I never actually believed that I could be success as a writer. After graduation, I never applied for a single writing jobs. I didn’t prospect my scripts, or submit any LOI’s. I simple started looking for “real work”, half-hardheartedly dreaming that I might someday publish something, you know… down the road, one day. Even when I did land a freelance job writing for a very well known magazine on a regular basis and making $2,000 an article, I still didn’t think I could be successful. I thought my bubble would come crashing down soon enough, so I better hold on to…

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How We Survived a Number of Setbacks and Ultimately Found Our Niche

If you are in need of income right away, here are a few suggestions via the short version of our story.

In 2010 I lost my teaching job. We had no reserves, nothing but my last paycheck.

Caretaking (Ranches, etc.)

We took a few caretaking jobs. These jobs can be really rewarding if you can move. If you want to stay local, use Look in “jobs,” particularly in the “et cetera” category. You can also search using the term “caretaker”; however, be aware that a lot of people confuse the terms caregiver and caretaker. A caregiver is one who looks after the physical and/or companionship needs of, usually, either a disabled or elderly person. A caretaker is one who looks after property and performs various duties in exchange for free rent, and sometimes for a salary and/or stipend as well. These types of positions work best for someone who has handyman and/or maintenance skills. Some will involve animal skills. We found our first caretaker job using Craigslist, and our second one from We primarily used these two resources over a couple of years to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table, and a bit of money in our pockets.

U-Haul Customer Service

We decided after a while that we wanted to be more independent. My partner found work with UHaul, as a customer care representative, working from home. All he needed was a computer with a high-speed internet connection (we found out that cable was really the only thing fast enough), and a headset with a mic. He stayed with that for a year and a half, while I concentrated on other business possibilities. You don’t have to be a sales pro to do UHaul; an even-tempered personality, some smarts, and the ability to learn and adapt quickly is what it really takes. Their busy season generally starts in May, and runs anywhere from November to January. In the slower season, you’ll likely have to have something else to supplement. If you’re reading this in March, they will begin taking applications and gearing up for training soon.

A Setback & oDesk

When I broke my foot in 2012 and was laid up for several weeks, I finally decided that was the best time to figure out what I could do from home as well. Thanks to my long background of writing for publications as well as teaching, I knew that was one skill I could definitely market from my bed. Thus my freelance writing explorations began.

I struggled with, learning the ropes, with no how to’s other than their own contractor publications. I wasn’t making enough, so I tried some network marketing besides, but no matter how easy someone made network marketing for me, I couldn’t make a dime from it. After I had spent upwards of $500 without a single dollar in return, I decided I needed to find another way to supplement oDesk.

When UHaul’s busy season slacked off nearly two months earlier than we expected near the end of 2012 (it had lasted well into January the previous year), we were a bit panicked. We had had a short stint (3 months) as interim managers for a self-storage facility and found we liked it.

The Self-Storage Venture

We pored over every ad for self-storage we could find and applied for as many as we felt would suit us. The last one we applied for was still in Arizona. They interviewed us, and told us they had a position in Oregon, if we were willing to take it. That was a big decision for us. It meant leaving my son and his family behind.

We made the big trek. We were excited. We knew we liked the industry, and we thought it would stand us in good stead until retirement. Apparently, the Universe had different plans for us, because my partner had an accident on the job, and at the 90 day point, they bid us goodbye.

A Fortunate Setback & Landing in Paradise

They gave us three-week’s notice, so we started scouring the ads again. This time we would have our final check and a bit of a nest egg we had put back. We looked all the way to Western Washington, as far south as Bakersfield, CA and east to Reno, NV.

We were only about 25 miles from the California border, so we took a day trip to look at some rentals in the Mt. Shasta area. We found a place we felt would bring us some peace. I needed to heal from the shocking jolt of leaving my family behind only to find us adrift again such a short time later. We paid three months’ rent in advance in Northern CA and settled in.

That’s where we were able to get enough breathing room to decide to tackle the freelance biz together. This time, I created an agency on oDesk, and signed up for Elance as well. From this we built up to where we are today. Six months after moving to a scenic mountain village, we decided we had accomplished what we needed to, and we returned to Arizona to be near family.

Less is More!

I only make 2/3 of what I was making when I left my teaching job in 2010, but I have cut my living expenses in half, so what I make now goes farther than the larger salary did.

In summary, if you lose your income with no reserves, it need not be the end of the world. It can give you an opportunity to downsize, and to reassess what you really want to do. Flexibility is the key to making it work. Even though we floundered around a bit until we hit our stride, we don’t regret the experiences. We are using them to help others get on their feet and to navigate the world of freelance.

Make Money This Week from Freelance Writing

I live a location-independent lifestyle in the U.S. and I make my living solely from oDesk and Elance. Apparently it’s pretty rare to make one’s living from these two sites alone. I know why, and it has nothing to do with your capabilities as a writer. So don’t roll your eyes when the first thing I tell you to do in order to make money this week is to create a profile on Stick with this article, and you’ll understand how to quickly overcome the problems thousands of others are having and why they never get far enough to make a dime.

Elance vs oDesk. For the purposes of this article, I choose Elance over oDesk for three basic reasons: 1) Elance releases your money to you the second your client releases it; oDesk holds your money for 6 days after your client releases it. If you want to make money this very week, you have to use Elance. 2) Elance is more oriented toward professionals. If you know your writing is good, here is where you deserve to start, and 3) Elance offers you better protection for getting paid. I’ve been ripped off on oDesk, but never on Elance (you’ll have to read other posts and/or my upcoming book which is launching on April 11 to hear that story and find out how to avoid getting ripped off by a client.)

Elance/oDesk merger. Now that oDesk and Elance have merged, and are sister sites, oDesk is quickly bringing its policies and quality up, but for the moment, Elance is still the better of the two. It draws more professional clients and professional-style writers. A lot of what I say here applies to oDesk as well, so you can also do oDesk, but remember that it will take you 10 days to 2 weeks to get paid instead of having it in your pocket this week.

Let me quit kibitzing and get to it. Here are your steps to making money this very week with your writing, whether fiction or non-fiction.

Go to There are 12 categories of different kinds of work available on Elance. For our purposes, click on Writers and then click on View Jobs. Look down the left side under Writing & Translation, and you can see how to start narrowing down the field. However, you might just want to peruse it all at the moment to get a feel for it. At the moment I started this article, Elance indicated there were 3,595 writing jobs available.

Right here, at this point in the process, is where we start separating the people who truly want to make money right away from freelancing from the wannabes. Don’t get discouraged at this point. There are hundreds of low bidding jobbers, and hundreds of job offers for pay that might seem insulting. Get over it. You just have to plow through those to find the gems. In my household, these ads have become a source of humor for us. Learn to refine your search skills, and learn to refine the skills you are offering so that you get the types of offers that you want.

Register and create your profile. When the site says, “Complete your profile,” complete your profile. I mean really complete it. The first time I did so, it took me a full day, but I was rewarded for that almost immediately with contracts. Your profile is the core of your marketing—it tells who you are and what you can do for your prospective client.

Create your payment method. It will take up to three days to get this approved, so do it when you first register. Having the money sent directly to your bank costs nothing. It costs $1 to have it sent to PayPal. One problem with sending it to PayPal is that you will lose 10% to Elance (that’s the standard Elance fee), then you will pay $1 for the transfer, and then PayPal takes 4% of it unless you have a PayPal debit card.

Create your portfolio. Clients have to have some way of knowing that you can do what you say you can. If you have other published work online, whether paid or unpaid, link these to your Elance profile. If you have writing samples on your hard drive, upload them to Elance (with caution, be sure to see the caveats below on using unpublished work). If you have NO samples, create some. Generally, the prospective client only needs to see a couple of things to make up his or her mind. If you have top-notch writing skills, whether or not you have ever demonstrated that before anywhere online, as long as you can create something that shows your ability to spell, use proper grammar, and write compelling copy, you’ll get hired because you’re already in the top 10% of writing contractors out there.

Use specific writing samples. Obviously, the more versatile a writer you are, the broader range of clients you have from which to choose. Don’t know what you can or want to write about? Start perusing the categories under Writing & Translation, pick a category that sounds like it could work for you, and start looking at some of the ads. Once you have in mind what you could write about, create a couple of compelling pieces in that category.

Are you a fiction writer? Write a couple of pieces of throwaway flash fiction (by throwaway, I mean something you don’t care whether it ever gets published or not). If you already have short stories, etc. never send whole works. It’s best to choose an excerpt that shows your ability to write. Don’t give away characters or plots if they are works you want to publish. An excerpt is all they need to see that you can write.

Non-fiction writer? If you want to excerpt or create a sample for non-fiction, if you have a niche, be sure to have samples of writing from your particular niche. In using works in progress that you plan on submitting elsewhere, please follow the excerpt guidelines I’ve given to the fiction writers above.

Become an Elance member. If you possibly can, pay the $10 for Elance Membership. Everything works with tokens. You pay tokens to submit your proposals. The higher paying jobs will require more tokens, but also remember that you are new at this. Unless you find something specifically in your niche and have solid and specific (read: prior published) works to show them, unless you really sell yourself, chances are you’re not going to get the big bucks right out of the start gate. If you become an Elance member, you have some specific perks, but two of which will help you right away: 1) you get more tokens with which to apply, and 2) you can see what everyone else is bidding. That helps you to be able to bid. Having said all that, oDesk does not use the token system, and there is no membership level. But, you will still only be able to apply for 20 jobs until you jump through more hoops.

Find an ad that sounds good. Find an ad that sounds like something you can really do. If you want to get paid this week, find something that you can do in a 1 – 3 day turnaround.

Create your proposal and bid. Create a proposal addressing the specific points in the ad and how you can meet those needs. Attach a sample from your portfolio, or something you’ve created from your hard drive. Remember that your proposal is your chance to set yourself apart. When it comes to bidding, this is one place your Elance membership is really helpful because it allows you to see a range of bids already placed. It shows you the lowest bid placed, the highest bid placed and the average of all bids thus far. For tips on bidding, see my trade secrets article here.

Get hired. Be responsive. Respond to everything your client says, and ask good, clarifying questions to make sure this is the right contract for you.

Perform the work. Note: make sure the funds for the job have been put into escrow before you start work on the project. Sometimes you’ll get a new client who doesn’t quite know the ropes, and you’ll have to remind them (to avoid this, see my trade secrets article). Do a top-notch job. Go the extra mile. When you submit it, be sure to let your client know that if they find something that needs to be reworked, you’ll be glad to do it.

Submit your work. Once you’ve submitted your work, go to the Terms & Milestones page and indicate in the drop-down menu that your work is complete, and click on the button that says, “Request release of milestone.”

Get paid. If you’ve done a short job with a short turnaround time, your client will likely review it and get back to you immediately, and will release your pay shortly thereafter. If they don’t get back to you right away (within 48 hours), remind them with a polite message. If for any reason they don’t get back to you after you’ve submitted your work, Elance will automatically release the funds to you in 14 days. I’ve only had a couple of clients whom I had to remind, and NO ONE has ever made me wait longer than 3 days.

Success begets success. Once you’ve been successful with your first contract, it will bolster you for more success. Repeat steps 7 – 12.